Watering holes are a dime a dozen in the Pioneer Valley. You really can’t go more than a couple miles driving before you find one place or another that will gladly sell you a pint of macro brew for $4.00 and call it a service.
These places serve their purpose, but no one without an ironic mustache and a penchant for PBR tall boys will call them a good bar.
A good bar is a destination at its core — a place you actively try and fit into your schedule no matter how far away it is.
You can always tell a good bar when you enter one in a number of ways:
- The beer selection is varied and delicious, there are great offerings on draft and many bottles of true craft brew available.
- The patrons span generations. You’ll find beer lovers of all ages, and several friendly individuals who will gladly talk beer with you.
- The bartenders are top notch, quick with the pour and able to offer an informed opinion about the current offerings.
- The overall vibe of the place. Whether it is energetic or subdued it’s contagious, inviting and makes you want to come back.
We here in Massachusetts are lucky enough to have many good bars within driving distance. There is one of them that calls to me regularly though, and I make it a point to visit whenever I am in the area. This bar is called simply “The Moan And Dove” and it is by every definition a good bar.
When you first walk into the Moan and Dove you notice it’s pretty dark in there. This provides a great relaxing atmosphere that is balanced by the many live plants they have in the windows. It is warm in the winter and nice and cool in the summer, a true all season establishment.
The next thing you notice is their on draft board — it’s impressive. I often find myself with decision paralysis due to the many great options on there. Every time I go there is always something there that intrigues me — and their selection often mirrors the changing seasons and types of beers mentioned in my Beer is a Season post.
If for some reason you don’t find a beer you’re interested in trying on draft fear not! The Dove has an expansive bottle list to choose from, all broken out by category, and featuring some great imported beers. In particular I find their Saison offerings to be expansive and enjoyable.
My first beer of the afternoon there was a simple White Lion Pale Ale. I had heard that they were opening a brewery in Ipswich soon and was interested in giving them a shot.
It was a pretty good beer, I wasn’t particularly ecstatic about it, but it definitely tasted great when accompanied by the copious amount of shell your own peanuts I was enjoying. Not much else to write about it really. Future-Wife enjoyed some Petrus Red, a rarity to find on draft. I took my usual sip, made my usual Renee Zellwegger eating lemon sourheads face, and left her to it.
The second round I tried something out of my comfort zone– Andechs Weissbier Hell. This was a very different beer than I am used to. It smelled a bit like bananas and tasted pretty much the same. Nice smooth malty classic wheat beer flavor to it.
We spent a couple hours there, enjoying the ambiance, and sampling the suds. It’s a great place to just relax, play a card game or two (Magic the Gathering for us) and enjoy yourself. They don’t serve food, but I would be remiss if I talked about The Dove and didn’t mention El Comalito’s which is in the same parking lot.
Seriously, amazing authentic Mexican and Salvadorian food. Such a perfect accompaniment.
The Moan and Dove also boasts a particularly interesting Mug Club program where you are challenged to drink their entire bottle list and then some in one years time. For this you get a big ole mug that they will fill for the same price as a pint. Not a challenge I am willing to endure given some of the beers on the list, but I did have the pleasure of watching one of my friends ‘graduate’ once he drank his final beer.
Just about the only negative things I can say about the Moan and Dove are in regards to prices and music selection.
The prices are pretty steep, I wont pull any punches about that. Two rounds in you’re going to be about $20 lighter, depending on what you get. Rare draft beers command rare draft beer prices; same goes for bottles. I understand the necessity, but I disagree with the pricing on some of the easier to get beers. Thankfully this tends to thin the crowds there and keep the obnoxious college kids at bay, so it is what it is.
The music there is entirely dependent on your bartender. That means it is either great or it is just way too far off the spectrum for my tastes. If this were just one or two songs that would be fine, but after a full album of what sounds like Thom Yorke getting molested by cats it tends to irritate. Thankfully it’s not blasted and you’re just as likely to hear the entirety of Cake’s Fashion Nugget on vinyl. They steer clear of the typical country and classic rock playlists you’ll hear everywhere else though, which is nice.
The Moan and Dove is a great bar with an energy that is soothing and a selection of beer that will please most beer nerds. It doesn’t have a pretentious hipster vibe or smell like vomit and stale beer like most bars in the college area. If you find yourself in the Amherst area check them out, you wont be disappointed!